On Friday night, Ohio’s locker room was filled with cries of anger. On Saturday night, the cheers of celebration carried all throughout Bird Arena.
Ohio (10-3-3) split its first series against rival Lindenwood (11-5) after a 2-1 win on Saturday. For the Bobcats, the win was needed. It proved that after weeks of being bested by some of the top-tier programs in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, they have the skill set to stand up against these opponents.
“We had every single guy out there blocking shots and making goals,” senior goalie Jimmy Thomas said. “I consider this a turning point in our season. Now we know we can hang with the big dogs.”
Doubts that the Bobcats were capable of competing with top-ranked teams in the ACHA like the No. 3 Lions had peaked Friday night. After they lost Friday’s game 4-1, coach Cole Bell was left wondering if the Bobcats can play at the level they believe they’re capable of.
Saturday showed Bell that the pieces are slowly being put together. In his eyes, Ohio has finally played to its potential.
“We had a great meeting after the game Friday and this (Saturday) morning,” Bell said. “We laid it all out and said, ‘If we want to be a top team, this is what it takes.’”
Ever since its series against Iowa State, Ohio has tried to find a method to consistently win against teams ranked in the top 10 in the ACHA. It didn’t find it against Michigan-Dearborn or Liberty, and those series only raised doubts about the Bobcats’ talent.
Saturday was the breakthrough that Ohio needed.
“We’ve learned a lot of lessons and have done a lot of growing as a group,” Bell said. “I think this is a good time for a week off to reflect on that.”
The mission now? Build off the success it experienced and maintain it after Thanksgiving break.
“We figured out what we had to do to win this game,” freshman forward Andrew Wells said. “We’ve just got to carry that over.”
Wells had blocked two consecutive shots with his leg late in the third period. The final five minutes showcased Ohio’s teamwork at its peak.
Similar to Friday, the Lions pressed hard to force overtime. Ohio refused to budge. The Bobcats are 1-3 in overtime this season and didn’t want to press their luck.
Instead, the Bobcats tightened up in their defensive zone and wore down the clock as Lindenwood slowly unraveled. Even after the Lions pulled their goalie with 1:30 left in the game, Ohio didn’t crack.
It has two more series to close out the first half of its season. If the Bobcats truly see Saturday as a turning point, they will use the series against Lindenwood as a reminder of what can happen when they play at their best.